Tegra 2 debuts, runs Unreal Engine 3

TR was on location this morning at Nvidia's CES press conference, where the company introduced its next-generation Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip (SoC). Tegra 2 takes after its predecessor, melding an ARM microprocessor architecture with Nvidia GPU and video decoding logic, but it takes things to the next level.

Nvidia announced that Tegra 2 has eight independent processors, including dual ARM Cortex A9 microprocessor cores. The new SoC purportedly allows for ten times the performance of a modern smart phone, and it draws only 500mW. On a single charge, Tegra 2-based devices should be able to play music for 140 hours or high-definition video for 16 hours.

Nvidia brought in Epic Games CEO and Founder Tim Sweeney, who said the new SoC was comparable in terms of specifications to both current high-end game consoles and high-end gaming PCs from two to four years ago. Sweeney proved his point by showing Unreal Engine 3, the game engine that powers Gears of War 2 and a host of other games, running on a Tegra 2 tablet. It was jarring to see it going through the motions on such a thin little device.

Tegra 2 could power some sweet little handheld gaming systems, then, but Nvidia sees it as a driver for what it calls the 2010 "tablet revolution." During the conference, Nvidia General Manager Mike Rayfield showed Tegra 2-powered tablet prototypes from Foxconn, MSI, and others. One of them had a 1024x600 display and was running Google's Android operating system. Another prototype featured a dual-mode display, which could be either backlit or front-lit—good for use as a Kindle-like reading device.

Speaking of which, Nvidia expects to see digital magazine subscriptions on Tegra 2 tablet devices. The company said Adobe plans to port its AIR runtime environment to the Tegra architecture, which will no doubt help developers wishing to write multimedia apps for those systems.

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